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Seattle's Most Touristy, Overrated Restaurants

BryanZ Dec 14, 2007 07:19 PM

So, the "Benny Hanna" thread got me thinking. What are Seattle's worst, most overrated, touristy restaurants? Obviously there are chains (i.e., Bennihana's) but let's stay away from that.

Where would you purposefully tell people to avoid going that they would otherwise read about in the guidebooks, Citysearch, etc? Eating at the Space Needle immediately comes to mind.

What else? Go wild. This could be fun and actually useful for a first time visitor. Think of the restaurants and sentiments presented here as words of warning from the wise.


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  1. j
    jdestes RE: BryanZ Dec 14, 2007 08:49 PM

    I always think of The Crab Pot, it seems like a good idea, but it just seemed to miss the mark.

    1. terrier RE: BryanZ Dec 14, 2007 09:31 PM

      There is none higher (lower) than the Space Needle if we're excluding chains.

      Honorable mentions: Salty's, Ivar's.

      I still have to say that the one place that makes me want to scream with fury every time I pass it (and see it packed with a line out the door) is a chain: The Cheesecake Factory. The inexplicable popularity of that greasepit - within easy waddling distance of a dozen finer local restaurant - fills me with apoplectic rage.

      2 Replies
      1. re: terrier
        phinious RE: terrier Dec 22, 2007 05:24 AM

        I actually enjoy Ivar’s Sunday brunch. I am not the biggest fan of the typical American breakfast (bacon, eggs, toast, etc) and their buffet offering is rather deep.

        1. re: terrier
          BruceB RE: terrier Jan 15, 2008 12:41 AM

          The Space Needle isn't overrated. No one says the food is great, but it's decent. You go for the view, and if you enjoy urban views, it's a lot of fun.

        2. b
          BryanZ RE: BryanZ Dec 14, 2007 10:00 PM

          Perhaps you might also include a reason as to why your choices are on the list for those of us uninitiated to their particular delights.

          1. m
            mrnelso RE: BryanZ Dec 14, 2007 11:56 PM

            Based on only one experience (!), I give you Palisade (or that might be a chain, I never bothered to check).
            Great view..

            2 Replies
            1. re: mrnelso
              Leper RE: mrnelso Dec 15, 2007 06:28 AM

              Terrier, The people crammed in the Cheescake Factory are just Doppelgangers of the people in P F Chang's. Imagine how Thierry Rautureau must feel when he drives by those Twilight Zones.

              1. re: Leper
                clearskies0810 RE: Leper Dec 15, 2007 09:47 PM

                Wild Ginger

            2. c
              christy319 RE: BryanZ Dec 15, 2007 10:18 AM

              But what ARE the places that tourists would read about it guidebooks? It doesn't sound like they are the places people are assuming would be mentioned. I looked at Fodor's online, a guide that I think it fairly shallow and might have bad recommendations, but this is their list:

              Dahlia Lounge
              Hing Loon
              Kwanjai Thai
              Le Pichet
              May Thai
              Ray's Boathouse
              Restaurant Zoë

              Not bad, with some great picks. Frommer's list is too long to paste here but it has Matt's, Rovers, Cascadia, Lampreia, etc. So I think that the restaurants that people will have to argue about as being too touristy and overrated are more along the lines of Dahlia Lounge, not Crab Pot (I think people end up in those bad waterfront places because they are already down there for the Aquarium and the ferries and think it looks good, not because any guidebook is recommending them).

              7 Replies
              1. re: christy319
                landguy RE: christy319 Dec 15, 2007 11:20 AM

                Great point. Before I moved to Seattle I relied on guide books for my restaurant choices and was mistakenly left thinking this town didn't offer very good chow. The restaurants I remember trying solely on guidebook reccos were Ray's, Rovers, and Palace Kitchen. All or ok but definitely not the best of Seattle imo. I think it all comes down to marketing, I'm sure these restaurants spend a fair amount on marketing and hiring PR firms to promote themselves and therefore get all the ink and attention. Just like with movies I now always take restaurant reviews I read both good and bad with a grain of salt.

                1. re: landguy
                  bighound RE: landguy Dec 16, 2007 07:43 AM

                  rovers is easily one of the top ten in seattle. you should try again.

                  1. re: bighound
                    landguy RE: bighound Dec 16, 2007 10:23 AM

                    I did but luckily I had a gift certificate the second time so the meal was covered. I also find it unnecessarily stuffy and overpriced. Le Gourmand is my choice for French chow in Seattle.

                    1. re: landguy
                      donttrustsnakes RE: landguy Dec 19, 2007 09:30 AM

                      My thought after a birthday dinner there some years back was that for the same money we could have flown to New York and eaten at Le Bernardin. I'm serious.

                      1. re: donttrustsnakes
                        equinoise RE: donttrustsnakes Dec 19, 2007 11:00 AM

                        You can't be serious. Excuse me for being literal, but Le Bernadin's prix fixe menus are $135-180, without wine. Rover's are $80-130. I will assume that LB is better without ever trying it, based on press and rep alone. But each of the very few meals I had at Rover's was extraordinary-there is nothing else in Seattle like it.

                        1. re: equinoise
                          donttrustsnakes RE: equinoise Dec 20, 2007 12:12 AM

                          It was in 2001 when airfares and prices were lower (current base p.f. at Le Bernardin is $107). All in, dinner for two (one tasting menu) with a $45 bottle of wine topped $300. But, fair point even though all I was reporting was my thought at the time. I seriously thought the meal at Le Bernardin would have been cheaper and the overall experience a better value. Also, in a little place like this, on a deserted evening, after a special birthday dinner, one might hope to lay eyes on the chef at some point. That didn't happen.

                2. re: christy319
                  igj RE: christy319 Dec 16, 2007 07:01 AM

                  As an annual visitor to the general area, I manage to get into Seattle proper usually once per visit...and oddly enough, the places that I found in guidebooks do tend to be places I have also read about on Chowhound. In fact, on a recent business trip, I went to Dahlia Lounge because of what I read in both places and I discovered Matt's in the Market essentially simultaneously from Chowhound and Citysearch.

                  Now, as for places in the neighborhoods not right near downtown - there guidebooks have not been as helpful.

                3. s
                  staffstuff RE: BryanZ Dec 15, 2007 04:30 PM

                  Ray's Boathouse is a lovely spot (view) but the food is not notable. The OCeanaire is part of a chain and there are better LOCALLY owned seafood and fish restaurants that represent/prepare the best of Seattle's PNW bounty of fish & seafood like Matt's, Flying Fish, McCormick & Schmick's Harborside, Etta's.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: staffstuff
                    bighound RE: staffstuff Dec 16, 2007 07:44 AM

                    mccormick and schmick's is part of a huge chain and reliably unremarkable.

                    1. re: bighound
                      allisonw RE: bighound Dec 16, 2007 12:45 PM

                      Ditto on Crab Pot, blech. I know Buca de Beppo is a chain, but it tries to pretend like it's not, so I'm adding that. The food's not terrible, but not worth going out for food easily made at home. Metropolitan Grill is a ripoff, and the Ivar's restaurants (not the takeout fish and chips) is ragingly mediocre. Floyd's, the BBQ place by the Key Arena, packs them in before games, but surely not because the food's any good. Beth's Cafe is just plain nasty.

                      Fun thread topic, let's hear your picks!!

                      1. re: allisonw
                        eternalX RE: allisonw Jan 10, 2008 01:41 PM

                        Floyd's ain't so bad. True, it isn't great BBQ, but the pork sandwich is tasty, on nice bread, and the fries are solid. There is much worse around.

                    2. re: staffstuff
                      donttrustsnakes RE: staffstuff Dec 19, 2007 09:31 AM

                      Not only is Oceanaire a chain, it is a chain out of the Midwest (MPLS) originated by the same people who came up with Buca di Beppo. Enough said.

                    3. p
                      pitchblende RE: BryanZ Dec 16, 2007 06:56 PM

                      I'd say Anthony's at Pier 66 - both the diner and the upstairs more formal restaurant.

                      1. Xericx RE: BryanZ Dec 16, 2007 07:57 PM

                        I found Ezell's fried chicken overrated versus the hype it got.

                        I enjoyed Ivar's Clam Chowder (sit down restaurant on some lake).

                        13 coins was horrible.

                        1. n
                          nonbei RE: BryanZ Dec 16, 2007 08:58 PM

                          Nishino: People rave about this place, but it's just another Nobu knockoff. If that's considered one of the best (by many a Hound) Japanese restaurants in Seattle, our city has been sorely deprived. Dined there once, and recall that the "itamae" were wearing latex gloves while preparing sushi. In the tradition-rich culinary art of sushi-making, that's plain sacrilege. IMO, Seattle's most overrated restaurant.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: nonbei
                            barleywino RE: nonbei Dec 27, 2007 08:48 AM

                            Unfortunately that's the state of the art in Seattle...it's not the restaurant that's overrated, it's the city...but we try to enjoy what we have ;)

                          2. e
                            equinoise RE: BryanZ Dec 16, 2007 10:06 PM

                            How about the very Americanized (and highly credentialed) N. Seattle Chinese favorites Judy Fu's and Black Pearl?

                            If we are going to beat up some chains (and why not) I think anyone posessing the slightest experience with honest Italian-American cookery from the Northeast would just shake their head in disdainful incomprehension at the local success of Maggiano's Little Italy. I have heard their Bellevue location can have three hour waits. I was compelled to eat there (after a half hour wait) and found their basic marinara sauce an inedible disaster. The revolting texture was mouth-coating and suggestive of butter substitutes, with a flavor dominated by artificial additives. How do you mess up the fundamentals of Italian-American that badly while purporting to specialize in it? Madonna! While other dishes were edible, the portions are shamelessly excessive-even the "half" order of a pasta would be enough for three. The despicable food waste/overfeeding that goes on at Maggiano's also occurs at Cheesecake Factory. I think there is a primal hoarding instinct buried somewhere in all of us that draws us toward giant plates of mediocre to nasty food, and these sorts of awful eateries exploit it to their great profit.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: equinoise
                              phinious RE: equinoise Dec 22, 2007 05:32 AM

                              Oh my gosh! I hate this place beyond belief. I had a work holiday party here and was appalled. Not to get all Holden Caulfield on you, but I found the place to be phony (but then I feel that way about Bellevue in general).

                            2. dave_c RE: BryanZ Dec 17, 2007 07:45 AM

                              I have a slightly different take on this question.

                              There is touristy, which to me automatically implies mediocre food, and then there's overrated.

                              The Space Needle and the Crab Pot are both niche restaurants. One has a rotating view and the other gives people a chance to whack some overcooked crabs.

                              In regards to the Cheesecake Factory downtown, I think that place caters to coventioneers (sp?) and people visiting the downtown area.

                              I'd love to hear some alternatives around the Cheesecake Factory (Pike and 7th?). I end up down there once in awhile to go to the theater, the movies or shopping (actually not me, but I tag along).


                              18 Replies
                              1. re: dave_c
                                allisonw RE: dave_c Dec 17, 2007 10:13 AM

                                Dave C: Bambuza, right up Pike from the Cheesecake is good. The Daily Grill in the Sheraton is also quite tasty. You can't go wrong with Palomino (eat in the bar, and great happy hour) and Baguette Box is just across the freeway on Pine. I work in that area a lot and those are the places I generally go out to eat.

                                1. re: dave_c
                                  cocktailhour RE: dave_c Dec 17, 2007 10:51 AM

                                  Tango, just across the freeway is good and an easy walk. It's way better than Cheesecake Factory. Union Square Grill. Palomino is better, but it is also a chain. I would walk the few blocks to Lola or Serious Pie, though.

                                  1. re: dave_c
                                    PAO RE: dave_c Dec 18, 2007 12:04 PM

                                    Tango and Il Fornaio are both close to the Cheesecake Factory and are very good. Given the choice between Palomino and Il Fornaio, Il Fornaio hands down. And I used to go to Palomino a lot.

                                    1. re: PAO
                                      goldylocks_9 RE: PAO Dec 20, 2007 09:46 PM

                                      I can completely understand why everyone rags on Cheesecake Factory, but to compare it to Tango is like comparing apple and avocados. Someone who would go to Cheesecake is not looking for the dinning experience that is offered at Tango, tango is fine dining and cheesecake is convenience and unfortunately there is not a lot of good convenience /independent, family with 4 kids, restaurants in downtown. For the most part the retail core restaurants are chains.

                                      1. re: goldylocks_9
                                        sebetti RE: goldylocks_9 Dec 21, 2007 07:47 AM

                                        I went to the Cheescake Factory for the first time two weeks ago. We were at the mall, we were tired, and we have a 16 month old child.
                                        We were seated, the waiter came to the table and immediately asked if he could bring a complimentary children's plate for my child..and then asked if he had any allergies. Within five minutes, there was a plate with sliced bananas and bread on the table. Sure it was simple and didn't cost the restaurant much but it was wonderful and no other restaurant has ever offered anything like that. So you know what, I won't trash the Factory, it has it's place.

                                        1. re: sebetti
                                          phinious RE: sebetti Dec 22, 2007 05:40 AM

                                          Regarding the Cheesecake Factory.

                                          Frustrated by the over saturated menu (please if I want an Asian dish, I would go to the ID) I asked for a basic soup and salad. Sadly, I was informed that no such combination was available. I appreciate eateries that strive to do one thing, and do it well. This is not the business model for the Cheesecake factory (unless their cheesecakes are better than I suspect).

                                          1. re: phinious
                                            Atomica RE: phinious Dec 23, 2007 05:29 AM

                                            So, they wouldn't serve you a green side salad and a cup of soup? From the lunch menu (until 5 PM): "LUNCH SOUP AND SALAD
                                            A Cup of Soup, House Green Salad, Sourdough Bread and Butter"

                                            Maybe you were there at dinnertime--couldn't find a dinner menu on their site.

                                            1. re: phinious
                                              sebetti RE: phinious Dec 27, 2007 08:21 AM

                                              I never said that the food was that good (it wasn't bad either, but it was just a sandwich), just that it had it's place and I appreciated their service and their gesture...a lot.

                                        2. re: PAO
                                          barleywino RE: PAO Dec 27, 2007 08:44 AM

                                          The sad irony is that even the non-chain restaurants in the downtown core aren't really any better than Cheesecake Factory imo. For example, I find the bistro shrimp pasta at Cheesecake factory to be "better" than some of the pastas i've had at Il Fornaio or Palomino (or Tavolata or even Barolo), which were disappointing (and yes fwiw i've eaten a lot of Italian and Italian-American cooking from the Northeast) . I live within 1 minute walk of Tango but after a couple visits have never been inspired to go back. Downtown desperately needs some REAL restaurants...

                                          1. re: barleywino
                                            terrier RE: barleywino Dec 27, 2007 10:58 AM

                                            Il Fornaio and Palomino are both chains.

                                            What's wrong with the Palace Kitchen, or Union, or Matt's, or Marjorie, or Brasa, or Lola, or Dahlia, or Maximilien, or Le Pichet, or ...

                                            I also live downtown and do get bored with what's available - not because they are bad but because they are too expensive to enjoy often. (And where's our damn delivery options? but that's a separate rant...)

                                            1. re: terrier
                                              barleywino RE: terrier Dec 27, 2007 11:27 AM

                                              maybe it's what you're saying...getting bored with what's available ;) (i do like Matts and Maximilien, for lunch) As Dagoose says, a lot of the interesting restaurants are outside the core downtown...

                                            2. re: barleywino
                                              malarkey RE: barleywino Dec 27, 2007 01:18 PM

                                              man... you people are really spoiled...or.. something. "All downtown restaurants are no better than Cheesecake Factory"?! "Downtown needs REAL restaurants"?!?

                                              Wow, I could bounce around between all my favorites and never get bored. Course, I don't eat out everyday, either...

                                              1. re: malarkey
                                                barleywino RE: malarkey Dec 27, 2007 02:02 PM

                                                i think it's all relative...if i'm going to go to, say, Union, why not travel a bit more and go to Crush; if i'm going to go to Tango, why not go to Harvest Vine instead; if Le Pichet, why not go to Cremant etc. Sometimes one has to sacrifice a bit for downtown convenience (the best example of this is of course Wild Ginger)...(sorry, just being devils advocate here ;)

                                            3. re: PAO
                                              equinoise RE: PAO Nov 13, 2008 11:10 AM

                                              Tried Palomino in Bellevue last night. Really made a conscious effort to keep an open mind going in despite its chain status, but it was just no good. Maybe the worst value I've had in a while.

                                              Ordered the mussels with chorizo ($13 or $15), because its description resembled an outstanding dish I'd had at Matt's. This iteration was a shadow, with a relatively insipid broth, salty toast, second rate bivalves, and uniformly sliced discs passed off as "chorizo". I also had the "crab cake" trio ($27). The cakes, allegedly made of King crab were passable, but not fresh tasting by any means, with a noticeable uniformity amongst the three. Each cake was squirted or smeared with a creamy sort of sauce, and each underpinned with a different starch. The "rapini" and beans tasted positively awful as if sauced in cheap vermouth that hadn't had the alcohol cooked out. The other accopaniements were passable. I must say my wife's chicken parmesean was decent ($19), while her green salad was a little limp.

                                              The MO of Palomino seems to be less than fresh, mediocre-quality ingredients cooked in a jazzy style. And of course--just like fellow chains Cheesecake Factory, Little Italy--excessive portions (though not as grotesque as those examples). Call me an elitist, but I don't think any bistro or higher-end place should serve entrees that are deliberately intended to result in double or triple meals for persons with average daily caloric intake. A likely doggy bag shouldn't be a selling point for this sort of restaurant.

                                              1. re: equinoise
                                                barleywino RE: equinoise Nov 13, 2008 11:33 AM

                                                yes i have returned dishes on more than one occasion at Palomino. Their rigatoni is not bad if you don't get your expectations too high.

                                                1. re: equinoise
                                                  GreenYoshi RE: equinoise Nov 13, 2008 12:12 PM

                                                  At happy hour all apps are half price, making things like the calamari, the pizza and the hummus platter acceptable.

                                                  1. re: GreenYoshi
                                                    equinoise RE: GreenYoshi Nov 13, 2008 12:59 PM

                                                    to be fair, the calamari was pretty good.

                                              2. re: dave_c
                                                pitchblende RE: dave_c Dec 23, 2007 03:19 PM

                                                If you're looking for a menu similar to the Cheesecake Factory (diverse assortment of basic American) but better quality, I'd try the Taphouse Grill, on 6th between Pike and Pine.

                                              3. s
                                                staffstuff RE: BryanZ Dec 17, 2007 11:46 AM

                                                overrated & touristy: Steelhead Diner

                                                1. n
                                                  nonbei RE: BryanZ Dec 17, 2007 01:15 PM

                                                  I forgot to mention Cutter's Bayhouse. Decent food, nice views, but the worst waitstaff in a city that's full of good ones. IMO, Seattle's signature tourist trap restaurant.

                                                  1. j
                                                    jrking123 RE: BryanZ Dec 18, 2007 12:54 PM

                                                    While I really enjoy most Tom Douglas operations, Etta's just doesn't have anything special and seems designed to attract the tourists who can't/won't make it up the hill...

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: jrking123
                                                      dave_c RE: jrking123 Dec 18, 2007 01:05 PM

                                                      lol... hill's can be a challenge.

                                                      When I lived in SF, I had some relatives visit from the flap part of the country. They were winded walking up a gentle hill, 50 yards, to the house. They were young and seemed healthy. I guess the hill works different muscle groups that the flat-landers don't normally use. :-)

                                                    2. b
                                                      burritobelle RE: BryanZ Dec 18, 2007 07:56 PM

                                                      Sadly, it seems all the seafood spots with views are overrated. Which sucks because most visitors ask me to take them out for "seafood with a view." I snob it up, and I don't!

                                                      I was so irritated when I gave a visiting friend a list of restaurants (per her request) and she ended up going to Daniel's Broiler instead. Which I guess I can't talk crap about, since Ive never been *looks sheepish*

                                                      1. h
                                                        HungWeiLo RE: BryanZ Dec 18, 2007 08:50 PM

                                                        Wild Ginger, McCormick's (it's a chain), and Snappy Dragon.

                                                        If Tamarind Tree and Green Leaf were expensive, I'd put them here too. But they're at least nice, affordable fare, so I'll leave them alone. :-)

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: HungWeiLo
                                                          staffstuff RE: HungWeiLo Dec 19, 2007 08:01 AM

                                                          yes, Wild Ginger....probably, IMO, the one that ought to be at the top of this list....

                                                        2. 8
                                                          86badfood RE: BryanZ Dec 23, 2007 05:24 PM

                                                          I have to second Steelhead Diner. Food was inedible when I dined there yet they always got great press. Not sure why. Service was very good though. Lowell's at the Market always seems to be full of tourists eating awful food. Tourists going to the Market....take the time to find Cafe Campagne, Pink Door or Matt's. It will be worth it!

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: 86badfood
                                                            jmarchun RE: 86badfood Dec 27, 2007 02:11 PM

                                                            Gotta disagree with the Steelheader Diner comments - I eat there for lunch every couple of months, and I've always had good meals (I enjoy their cavier pie and fried chicken). I sit at the bar at the kitchen and enjoy talking to Kevin and the others.... It can be touristy though....

                                                            1. re: jmarchun
                                                              jaydeflix RE: jmarchun Dec 27, 2007 03:12 PM

                                                              My food there is always 'good' but not great. But, y'know, I wouldn't call it touristy per se, but I would say it's packed with tourists.... if that makes sense.

                                                              Crabpot is touristy because they try to get the tourists in with their gimmick. Steelhead is packed with tourists just because it's right there and easy to get to while going through the market. I know it's a subtle distinction, but I think it is an important one... at least in my book. I mean, take boston. The Bullfinch (cheers) is touristy. Durgin Park is just filled with tourists.

                                                              Personally, if you want to talk overrated, Serious Pie gets my vote. It wasn't that it was bad when I went there, it just wasn't good.

                                                          2. dagoose RE: BryanZ Dec 27, 2007 09:09 AM

                                                            I think it is interesting, and a product of the citizens of the city, that our downtown restaurants are so uninteresting (for the most part). Seattle is, quite obviously, a city of neighborhood restaurants. People look for greatness in the areas right around them. In other cities, people make a night of going downtown for great food, but in Seattle, we are spoiled, and love that we can enjoy our great food near our homes. That may mean tourists downtown are being treated to things like the Cheesecake factory, but it also means residents of Madison Valley can walk to Nishino, Rover's and Harvest Vine. People on Queen Anne get Wolf, Opal and Betty, Capitol Hill has Quinn's, Presse and Lark, etc. etc. Our city lacking downtown destination restaurants is simply, I think, a product of how Seattlites prefer to eat: Cozied up in their local neighborhood haunt (or somebody else's neighborhood, for that matter...anything to avoid downtown.)

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: dagoose
                                                              HungWeiLo RE: dagoose Dec 27, 2007 10:31 AM

                                                              Good point. And who's living in downtown Seattle these days? I see many natives living in the nearby neighborhoods, and the transplants (well-funded ones, anyway) living in downtown.

                                                              1. re: HungWeiLo
                                                                hhlodesign RE: HungWeiLo Dec 27, 2007 01:41 PM

                                                                Painting with the broad brush that says all downtown restaurants are bad, while all neighborhood restaurants are good is specious logic. The bottom line is, places that attract tourists will have restaurants that are attractive to the lowest common denominator, regardless of the city. Take a walk around Times Square to illustrate my point. That does not negate any number of interesting restaurants around the downtown core (including Belltown.) To imply that natives in surrounding neighborhoods is the cause of good restaurants is also highly suspect. Who do yo think started these restaurants to begin with? If native Seattlites want to remain a provincial town unwelcoming of "transplants," than all of the best restaurants in the city would never have opened. You'd be stuck eating your Ivar's Clam Chowder and Dick's burgers for eternity.

                                                                Also, I wonder who is more "well-funded;" apartment dwellers downtown, or those within walking distance of Nishino, Rovers, Opal, Wolf, etc..

                                                                1. re: hhlodesign
                                                                  dagoose RE: hhlodesign Dec 27, 2007 03:05 PM

                                                                  I don't think the point is that all downtown restaurants are bad or all neighborhood ones are good, but rather that Seattle, more so than many places, tends to appreciate great food in their neighborhod, rather than making a big deal of going out downtown. I agree that belltown and downtown do have many great and interesting restaurants. I just know that I would rather go to one of similar quality that is close to my house, or at the very least where I don't have to deal with driving downtown and parking there.

                                                                  1. re: hhlodesign
                                                                    HungWeiLo RE: hhlodesign Dec 27, 2007 03:12 PM

                                                                    Well, I actually do enjoy eating downtown so I certainly am not painting with a broad brush - but rather just focusing on one point. However, consider the economics of restaurant real estate costs in downtown versus nearby neighborhoods. Downtown restaurants would be more likely to have to cater to economic driving forces of running a restaurant (catering to the lowest common denominator as you put it) due to their higher location cost premium. Of course this is not a hard rule, but I was just playing the devil's advocate.

                                                                    1. re: HungWeiLo
                                                                      hhlodesign RE: HungWeiLo Dec 27, 2007 04:04 PM

                                                                      This is precisely why many of the "interesting neighborhood restaurants" are located where they are. Believe me, it is not because the proprietors think that Seattlites would rather stay in their own neighborhood rather than going downtown. It is because the leases/rents for a downtown space require numerous covers and fast turns for the restaurant to remain profitable. I'd wager that 90% of any "neighborhood" place would move downtown if they could pay the same rent for the same size space.

                                                                    2. re: hhlodesign
                                                                      pablissima RE: hhlodesign Jan 12, 2008 12:31 AM

                                                                      Hey, lay off Dicks! It may not be gourmet, but those fries and a Dick's deluxe may be one of the best hangover avoidance tools in the city.

                                                                      Downtown, especially around the hotel and conference center district, caters to to the hotel and conference center attendees. That's why you've got all your chain retail shops as well as restaurants there. Yes, there are some good ones, but for the most part, well, there's a market for PF Changs and Cheesecake Factory, and it's not foodies. In fact, it'speople who have to be here and don't want to be challenged or find food interesting.

                                                                      The point about the neighborhood places being more interesting is a good one. And that might say something about the diners. We were at Nishino tonight, having a good (not brilliant) meal, but were quite thrilled to have the 10 year old girl next to us order the special with foie gras. (Or my 8 year old friend who regular craves Uni at Mashiko) Those are not the people who eat at cheesecake factory. the people who eat at cheesecake factory are the ones who are going to be appalled that the tempura special at nishino is oysters, hedgehog mushrooms, and shiso leaf.

                                                                2. h
                                                                  howard 1st RE: BryanZ Dec 28, 2007 11:04 AM

                                                                  have you priced real estate in any of seattle's nicer neighborhoods recently? i live downtown (and love it) for its affordable options and the urban lifestyle of having nearly everything one might need within a few blocks (sorry we lost the hardware store last year...). using westlake park as an arbitrary center, there are literally dozens of GOOD places to eat within 5 blocks, varying from pho joints to steakhouses; from coffee shops to the most creative of northwest cuisines. if the people at next table are from ohio (or namibia...), that does not obviate the quality of what's on your own plate - only if the restaurateur aims the menu at the out-of-towners will one suffer for being there. there are good and bad places to eat in every neighborhood; they are simply more concentrated downtown.

                                                                  1. t
                                                                    tilt RE: BryanZ Dec 30, 2007 09:34 PM

                                                                    We were there last night, with 8 others, mostly from Californis...and it was Chinooks.....

                                                                    ARGGHHH !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                                    1. s
                                                                      Smokie RE: BryanZ Jan 5, 2008 09:46 PM

                                                                      Unfortunately, most Seattle restaurants are overrated.

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Smokie
                                                                        frygirl RE: Smokie Jan 7, 2008 06:00 PM

                                                                        Cutter's Bayhouse should be #1 on this list. When I first moved here, I went and ordered a shrimp salad - the shrimp was canned.

                                                                        1. re: frygirl
                                                                          allisonw RE: frygirl Jan 12, 2008 09:41 PM

                                                                          A littlev o/t, but I was working in the Convention Center today and a few of us had insatiable hunger and no time--and we were stuck at Slumway. Ugh.

                                                                          One guy, who's an Aussie living in the States said to me, "this town's a per diem killer". And he is right. not including my parking today, I had a Slumway snack ($5) and an unexpectedly awful lunch at Romio's (mini pizza and salad, but the f'ed up my order so I got a pepperoni grossbomb pizza and salad, and NO I don't want a damn free dessert) for $9 with no bev, so yeah, this town can easily kill a per diem before dinner with no edible food.

                                                                          There is NOTHING cheap and tasty for lunch near the Convention Center on a weekend.....grrr.

                                                                          1. re: allisonw
                                                                            DTeater RE: allisonw Jan 15, 2008 10:29 AM

                                                                            Perhaps we're getting too far off topic here but in reply to Allisonw above, I work in the office tower attached to the Convention Center so I know the pain of which you speak! But one tip--Juice it Cafe, tucked in the back hallway past Kinko's (under Gold's Gym) serves delicious, healthy rice bowls, salads, sandwiches, soups and juices. They are sometimes open on weekends, especially if there's a big convention or meeting in town. And while I don't think they are open weekends, another tip is to walk 3 blocks to 4th Avenue near the Union St intersection and go to Harbor Cafe which serves yummy Thai-influenced food and other specials at very reasonable prices in spartan surroundings. These two places keep me sane.

                                                                            1. re: allisonw
                                                                              terrier RE: allisonw Jan 15, 2008 02:14 PM

                                                                              Crikey, is the Market really that long of a walk from the convention center?

                                                                              (No. No it isn't a long walk. 0.4 miles. 7 minutes at a normal pace.)

                                                                              Plenty of good stuff in the market that won't break the bank.

                                                                              1. re: terrier
                                                                                allisonw RE: terrier Jan 15, 2008 06:49 PM

                                                                                It's a time thing--the Market is too far away for me to be able to sit down and eat. Sorry about the /drift and thanks for the tip on the juice place, someone else suggested it to me just today.

                                                                        2. h
                                                                          HungWeiLo RE: BryanZ Jan 18, 2008 02:37 PM

                                                                          I just thought about Thai Tom, and how it should be on this list too.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: HungWeiLo
                                                                            hertzdonut RE: HungWeiLo Jan 20, 2008 02:01 PM

                                                                            Thai Tom does suck. Secret ingredient: SALT.

                                                                          2. j
                                                                            jamesbra RE: BryanZ Jan 18, 2008 02:44 PM

                                                                            Seperate thread, most likely, altogether - one that might not get the real answer, but why oh WHY don't "they" (and who's 'they' anyway) have a great restaurant atop the space needle?

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: jamesbra
                                                                              HungWeiLo RE: jamesbra Jan 18, 2008 11:36 PM

                                                                              The same reason why they don't have a great restaurant in the middle of Disneyland. Why put forth the effort when the money will flow in like clockwork?

                                                                            2. m
                                                                              Mark Nobe RE: BryanZ Jan 20, 2008 06:56 AM

                                                                              Most major tourist attractions (think Space Needle) that have restaurants are mediocre at best. As many have already said here, people are going to keep coming whether the food is great or not just because they read somewhere that it was a “Must See” recommendation in some travel guide they used to plan their trip.

                                                                              But, that’s still no excuse for Seattle not having a great restaurant with a view on the top of an office building. The top of the Columbia Tower doesn’t count because it’s private and the restaurant on the top of the Hilton isn’t even mediocre. With the awesome views this area provides there should be some operator out there that can be successful running a rooftop restaurant with great food and service, and enough local people to support it.

                                                                              If you want to see what I’m talking about go to Canoe the next time you are in Toronto. They have combined a very talented Chef preparing outstanding food, properly presented by well trained servers, with a “To Die For” view of the city and Lake Ontario. Seattle has all the ingredients needed and is just waiting for an operator to step up and fill this big gap in the local restaurant scene.

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